Chicken a la Can, Ginger Ale Style
I’d gone through Ruth Reichl’s “Garlic and Sapphires,” the BHG, Joy of Cooking, and the America’s Test Kitchen recipe (my favorite—brine, dry, splay over stuffing, then roast), combining ideas. The one recipe I kept putting off was for the infamous beer can chicken. First off, I didn’t have a grill. Secondly, the thought of sliding a pan with an upright chicken balanced on a partly full can of beverage was daunting and seemed dangerous, or, at the least, like I was pushing my luck. Thirdly, it reminded me of an old roommate’s penchant for roasting chickens on an upright roasting pan that looked like a witch’s hat—totally obscene, even if it was tasty. Also, I was always alarmed at how much juice collected in the hat’s brim, spilling over into the oven, making messes. I’m too lazy a cleaner to tackle something like that. And lastly, I don’t like the taste of beer enough to infuse it into a chicken. Sure, I’ve enjoyed my lemon-scented Hefes and sweet, wheaty beers, but I like those tastes in a glass, not in my poultry. It wasn’t until I read an article on Serious Eats that talked about using Coca Cola instead of beer than I finally decided to push my prejudices and fears aside; while I’m not a Cola fan, or even a soda drinker, the thought of ginger ale chicken was too appealing to pass up.
Prep was easy—in the morning, before work, I rinsed the chicken and patted it dry; let it rest in the fridge during the day so its skin would dry off further (dry skin = crispy roasted skin); seasoned it inside and out, including under the skin, with some salt, pepper, dry mustard, ground ginger, and garlic and onion powders; popped a ginger ale and poured some out; then trained my chicken—sit BokBok! Sit!!! Good bird. I let it rest in its rub while the oven preheated to 400. I’d set the bird up in a large, heavy-bottomed frying pan so I can make up a nice pan sauce afterward; I still have my cheap roasting pan of veggie charcoal fame, and I didn’t trust it on the stovetop for a reduction. I roasted away for about an hour, then braced myself for what I imagined would be the worst part—removing the bird from the oven, then transferring it onto another plate.
But, as luck would have it, it was easy as pie after I slide one pair of tongs under the chicken’s wings and another around the base of the can to hold it while I lifted the bird and settled it onto a plate to let it rest.
After that, I poured the chicken grease out of the pan, added some stock and ginger ale to deglaze, made up and threw in a roux, and tossed in some extra seasoning. Then, I let it reduce while I cooked up some instant brown rice.
And there you have it!
Yes, it was ginger aley. Yes, it was delicious. The skin was crispy; the meat was sweet, soft, moist, and gingery flavorful; and the pan sauce (how I love pan sauce) was absolutely gravy.